I must preface this post with an appeal for civility that United States Congressman Rodney Davis made after he was shot at during the attempted assassination of members of the US House of Representatives including Majority Whip Steve Scalise back in June of 2017.
Rep. Rodney Davis Blames ‘Political Rhetorical Terrorism’ For Virginia Shooting, YouTube, Published on June 14, 2017
Representative Scalise was released from the hospital in late July.
For those uncertain how to pronounce coup, Google provides audio. Wikipedia defines Coup d’état, for which coup is short, as:
The illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus.
Today’s theme was prompted by a recent editorial in the blog American Greatness which opened:
The president was widely seen as incompetent, naïve, hostile to the professional experts in the bureaucracy, if not an outright traitor, paid off by the nation’s ancient enemies.
The traditional political establishment, the intelligence services, and the career federal police were proven patriots and experts, who saw a tragedy unfolding before their eyes. They and everyone in their circle were increasingly worried over the destruction of the nation’s economy and the dangerous concessions to foreign enemies. He must be stopped.
In light of recent domestic events, it is worth remembering [that this described the circumstances around] the 1991 coup attempt against Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev…
The coup leaders thought they would be celebrated as saviors of the nation and that the Soviet people, long bred in habits of fear and passivity, would accept these events regardless…[However,] quite the opposite occurred.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators appeared in Red Square in Moscow and Leningrad to defend nascent democratic institutions…Ordinary people, it turned out, were hostile to the legacy Soviet elite. They wanted change, and they risked their lives for it.
Soon the coup plotters were arrested, several committed suicide, and the Communist Party and eventually the Soviet Union were soon officially disbanded.
The parallels with the current talk against Trump are rather remarkable. As Trump noted in his inaugural address:
For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished―but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered―but the jobs left, and the factories closed. What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
…Whether Trump is somehow forced to resign, taken out in a real or quasi-coup, or hobbled by passive resistance from the federal bureaucracy, it is worth remembering his American enemies echo almost identically the themes of the ’91 Soviet plotters, right down to the excuse of illness, claims of national emergency, and suggestion that the vice president would be a more capable steward of their interests.
…While they might try to pull this off, perhaps they should be worried they’ll share the same fate as the Soviet coup plotters.
I’ve sensed subversion and insurrection in the air for some time now. Perhaps you have too? Our Declaration of Independence says, among other things, that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
A commentator at Claremont Review of Books, Angelo M. Codevilla, wrote:
So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return.
Instead, we have a cold civil war. Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot. In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse…
Revolutions end when a coherent, persuasive idea of the common good returns to the public mind. Only then can statecraft be practiced rationally, as more than a minimalist calling designed to prevent the worst from happening.
Dennis Prager holds a similar, if gloomier, outlook:
It is time for our society to acknowledge a sad truth: America is currently fighting its second Civil War.
In fact, with the obvious and enormous exception of attitudes toward slavery, Americans are more divided morally, ideologically and politically today than they were during the Civil War. For that reason, just as the Great War came to be known as World War I once there was World War II, the Civil War will become known as the First Civil War when more Americans come to regard the current battle as the Second Civil War.
This Second Civil War, fortunately, differs in another critically important way: It has thus far been largely nonviolent. But given increasing left-wing violence, such as riots, the taking over of college presidents’ offices and the illegal occupation of state capitols, nonviolence is not guaranteed to be a permanent characteristic of the Second Civil War.
There are those on both the left and right who call for American unity. But these calls are either naive or disingenuous. Unity was possible between the right and liberals, but not between the right and the left.
Liberalism – which was anti-left, pro-American and deeply committed to the Judeo-Christian foundations of America; and which regarded the melting pot as the American ideal, fought for free speech for its opponents, regarded Western civilization as the greatest moral and artistic human achievement and viewed the celebration of racial identity as racism – is now affirmed almost exclusively on the right and among a handful of people who don’t call themselves conservative.
The left, however, is opposed to every one of those core principles of liberalism.
Like the left in every other country, the left in America essentially sees America as a racist, xenophobic, colonialist, imperialist, warmongering, money-worshipping, moronically religious nation.
Just as in Western Europe, the left in America seeks to erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. The melting pot is regarded as nothing more than an anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic meme. The left suppresses free speech wherever possible for those who oppose it, labeling all non-left speech “hate speech.”
But, how did we get here? We’ve discussed it before on this blog. However, this time, let’s go back to our miraculous beginning to see where we’ve come from:
The Great Awakening profoundly shaped the American Revolution. Growing as it did out of a period of deep religious fervor and ferment, the American Revolution was not going to be an anti-religious revolution like the one in France. “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced,” John Adams wrote, “The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People. A Change in their Religious Sentiments of their Duties and Obligations.”
Lord Acton traced the history of liberty as the story of mankind’s struggle down through the centuries to realize the political implications of the Gospel. Harry Jaffa agreed: “That the equality of human souls in the sight of God ought to be translated into a political structure of equal political rights has come to be regarded as the most authentic interpretation of the Gospel itself.”
It was the Founders’ great achievement, after nearly two millennia, to make equal political rights that authentic interpretation.
City Journal’s Fred Siegel wrote:
The Constitution…established a society in which property was widely if not always evenly distributed, but it did not pit the owners of property against the workers in intractable opposition. The Constitution was meant to serve and represent the broad middle ranks of society.
The great danger to the Constitution was the rise of an oligarchy able to convert its wealth into political power and vice versa. Madison, the Constitution’s primary author, warned that, eventually, “the proportion being without property” would increase, and create a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class. At that point, Madison intuited, “the institutions and laws of the country must be adapted, and it will require for the task all the wisdom of the wisest patriots.”
But, wisdom did not prevail. Instead, the oligarchs took control:
Against the concept of Biblical monarchy, the republicans counterposed the Biblical idea of covenant among individuals whose spiritual sovereignty arose from their personal experience of revelation…through Scripture. …No other nation had entrusted religion to individual citizens rather than to a state church. Americans emerged from the beginning as a covenantal people.
How then did America leap from Lincoln’s Calvinism to the Progressive conceit that the world was under human control, not under divine judgment? …Perhaps it is no accident that Woodrow Wilson’s father was a Southern Presbyterian minister who defended slavery: The Civil War’s losers did not like the idea that their humiliation was a divine judgment.
Instead of a world redeemed by God, the Progressives envisioned one made whole by human cleverness. “The Progressive response to all the problems posed by trusts, strikes, immigrants, corruption, education, public health, and more was scientific management through governance informed by credentialed experts…A modern society needed a modern state to fulfill the promise of rapid and permanent progress.”
[And] So did a modern world. [Mainline Baptist preacher and social gospel proponent] Walter Rauschenbusch … “claimed that God had not raised the United States to great power and wealth merely to be an example to other nations…but rather to act strenuously on behalf of righteousness in the world.”
And these idolatrous tenets were instituted through a new, living constitution embodied in an unelected administrative state. Phillip Hamburger, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, spoke about this subversion of America’s founding principles:
Administrative law…is a post-1789 development and—this is the key point—it arose as a pragmatic and necessary response to new and complex practical problems in American life…and, of course, if looked at that way, opposition to administrative law is anti-modern and quixotic.
But there are problems…Rather than being a modern, post-constitutional American development, I argue that the rise of administrative law is essentially a re-emergence of the absolute power practiced by pre-modern kings. Rather than a modern necessity, it is a latter-day version of a recurring threat—a threat inherent in human nature and in the temptations of power….
In this way, over the past 120 years, Americans have reestablished the very sort of power that the Constitution most centrally forbade. Administrative law is extra-legal in that it binds Americans not through law but through other mechanisms—not through statutes but through regulations—and not through the decisions of courts but through other adjudications…
…Much early administrative procedure appears to have been modelled on civilian-derived inquisitorial process. Administrative adjudication thus becomes an open avenue for evasion of the Bill of Rights. [emphasis mine]
And this constitutional subversion continues apace:
There is an obvious logic to the progressive dynamic. So long as there is no realistic prospect of dismantling the administrative state whose foundations were laid by Wilson and built upon by the New Deal [by FDR] and the Great Society [by LBJ], the movement of history must be in a progressive direction. Every major conservative political victory becomes a victory for the status quo; every major liberal victory becomes another step forward. Progressives are always just one electoral victory away from resuming the forward march of history.
And yet, this “progress” must not stand says Myron Magnet, Editor at Large for City Journal, who wrote:
For Americans to think that it is “progress” to move from the Founders’ revolutionary achievement—a nation of free citizens, endowed with natural rights, living under laws that they themselves have made, pursuing their own vision of happiness in their own way and free to develop as fully as they can whatever talent or genius lies within them—to a regime in which individuals derive such rights as they have from a government superior to them is contemptible.
How is a return to subjection an advance on freedom? No lover of liberty should ever call such left-wing statism “progressive.” In historical terms, this elevation of state power over individual freedom is not even “liberal” but quite the reverse.
…Deference to the greater wisdom of government, which Wilsonian progressivism deems a better judge of what the era needs and what the people “really” want than the people themselves, has been silently eroding our unique culture of enterprise, self-reliance, enlightenment, and love of liberty for decades.
…As the Founders often cautioned, a self-governing republic doesn’t have a governing class. Part of America’s current predicament is that it now has such a class, and the American people are very angry about it.
This governing class, Madison’s oligarchs who are: “able to convert [their] wealth into political power and vice versa,” view the people of the United States with contempt. These establishment elites (of the so-called right and the left) are globalists who think in this way:
We live in an interconnected world. Globalization and the internet have created new networks of belonging and new forms of social trust, by which borders are erased and old attachments vaporized…The nation-state was useful while it lasted and gave us a handle on our social and political obligations. But it was dangerous too, when inflamed against real or imaginary enemies.
In any case, the nation-state belongs in the past, to a society in which family, job, religion and way of life stay put in a single place and are insulated against global developments. Our world is no longer like that, and we must change in step with it if we wish to belong.
In rebuttal, the author continues:
The argument is a powerful one…but it overlooks the most important fact, which is that democratic politics requires a demos. Democracy means rule by the people and requires us to know who the people are, what unites them and how they can form a government.
This globalist elite seeks to abolish the people by overturning their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness:
[Globalism’s] purpose is not to seek value in the earth’s far corners but to get across the border to where the customs, expectations, and regulations that arose in the industrial age regarding compensation of the workforce don’t apply…
…In 1993, during the first month of his presidency, Bill Clinton outlined some of the promise of a world in which “the average 18-year-old today will change jobs seven times in a lifetime.” How could anyone ever have believed in, tolerated, or even wished for such a thing?
A person cannot productively invest the resources of his only life if he’s going to be told every five years that everything he once thought solid has melted into air. Far from being a promise, this much-touted side of globalization would be worth a great deal of hardship to avoid.
The more so since globalization undermines democracy… Global value chains are extraordinarily delicate. They are vulnerable to shocks. Terrorists have discovered this. In order to work, free-trade systems must be frictionless and immune to interruption, forever.
This means a program of intellectual property protection, zero tariffs, and cross-border traffic in everything, including migrants. This can be assured only in a system that is veto-proof and non-consultative—in short, undemocratic. That is why it is those who have benefited most from globalization who have been leading the counterattack against the democracy movements arising all over the West.
This last paragraph brings to mind two thoughts from the Book of Revelation:
They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. [emphasis added]
Revelation 18:10-13 English Standard Version (ESV)
And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” Revelation 13:4 (ESV)
Our recent election sought, through lawful means, to correct the actions of the subversive elite:
What if a naïve faith in voters’ rationality is not the source of our system’s difficulties?
What if the problem is that the public wants to tell its leaders something they don’t want to hear?
What if the literature of anti-democratic political science, like so much of our elite conversation about politics, is just a way to tell the public to shut up?
What if, as a result, the leaders who secure a hearing for public frustrations manage to do so by working around or undermining our institutions, rather than by harnessing them?
What if that willful elite ignorance is why our institutions face a crisis of legitimacy, leading to elections that force us to choose between bland technocrats and reckless brutes?
In other words, what if our constitution-bound democratic republicanism is not the problem but the solution—not a romantic delusion but the epitome of realism? If that were so, what then would this moment demand, both of citizens and of those who would be practitioners of a political science that deserves the name?
Friedrich Hayek foretold the outcome of this journey to totalitarianism in his book, Road to Serfdom, albeit, in terms of collectivist socialism rather than the current elite’s globalism.
Walter E. Williams’ foreword to the condensed version summarized Hayek’s argument and remedy:
In the last paragraph of The Intellectuals and Socialism, Hayek says, ‘Unless we [true liberals] can make the philosophic foundation of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, …the prospects of freedom are indeed dark’. If Hayek is correct that neither selfish interests nor evil intentions motivate intellectuals towards socialism, there are indeed grounds for optimism. Education offers hope. We can educate them, or at least make others immune, to the errors of their thinking.
…There is not a lot to be gained by challenging the internal logic of many socialist arguments. Instead, it is the initial premises that underlie their arguments that must be challenged. Take one small example. One group of people articulates a concern for the low-skilled worker and argues for an increase in the minimum wage as a means to help them. Another group of people articulating the identical concern might just as strongly oppose an increase in the minimum wage, arguing that it will hurt low-skilled workers.
How can people who articulate identical ends, as is so often the case, strongly defend polar opposite policies? I believe part of the answer is that they make different initial premises of how the world works…
The only way government can give one person money is to first take it from another person. Doing so represents the forcible using of one person, through the tax code, to serve the purposes of another. That is a form of immorality akin to slavery. After all, a working definition of slavery is precisely that: the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.
Well-intentioned socialists, if they are honest people as Hayek contends, should be able to appreciate that reaching into one’s own pockets to assist one’s fellow man is laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another’s pocket to do so is theft and by any standard of morality should be condemned.
Collectivists can neither ignore nor dismiss irrefutable evidence that free markets produce unprecedented wealth. Instead, they indict the free market system on moral grounds, charging that it is a system that rewards greed and selfishness and creates an unequal distribution of income.
Free markets must be defended on moral grounds. We must convince our fellow man there cannot be personal liberty in the absence of free markets, respect for private property rights and rule of law. Even if free markets were not superior wealth producers, the morality of the market would make them the superior alternative. [emphases mine]
How, then, can we get back to our founding principles:
The nobility of the founding consists in its realism about the self-interested nature of man, combined with its idealism about building a government that serves the common good by enabling people to acquire enough property to live, while making it possible for people in their private lives to serve God in the way they believed best and to cultivate their minds without being tormented by persecution.
The Founders’ generation embraced and emphasized this distinction. John Adams inserted this passage in the Massachusetts state constitution:
“All people are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in [short], that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”
Therefore, we must seek godly and lawful correctives before it’s too late and we find ourselves where a once prosperous Venezuela finds itself now:
That’s what’s new in the protests taking place in Venezuela — the conviction that the 21st-century socialism begun by former President Hugo Chávez has failed and has left the country in ruins. And there are other, darker new elements involved — police brutality, mass detentions and the use of paramilitary groups armed by the government to carry out the dirty work the military doesn’t want to handle: murdering people.
The demonstrations multiplied across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets, knowing they face armed repression, because they have realized that the institutions that make democracy work are in grave danger and that they must defend themselves against a despotic government.
What awakened them was the declaration made early last month by the attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, concerning two resolutions, 154 and 155, issued by the Supreme Court’s constitutional division that in effect voided the National Assembly. She denounced the ruling as “breaking the thread of constitutional continuity,” words that were translated into a rallying cry for the protesters:
“Maduro, coup-monger! We didn’t say so — the attorney general said so!”
Maduro held a stacked vote that 7 in 10 opposed. The Venezuelan people want democracy, not a Cuban inspired dictatorship.
Here, in America, the Republicans are fractured and the Democrat party is breaking up. This lost political consensus is not without grave national security implications, too.
Our shared situation calls for faithful witness and patient endurance.
We must remember: God is on His throne and directs the kings’ decisions as He wills. Even more, let us remember that He says:
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 33:16-18 (ESV)
Therefore, pray for peace and seek well-being for the people of these United States.
I Am Back! and I’d Like to Tell You Something Important to Me, May 26, 2017, YouTube, soniastravels